FastNet, a machine-to-machine (M2M) operator and part of the Telkom SA Group, has announced the utility sector launch of a nationwide LoRa WAN network designed for smart metering and energy control.

The launch took place during the 15th annual African Utility Week and Clean Power Africa, which is currently underway at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

John Myers, CEO of FastNet, says that the launch of this network was as a result of the growing need for Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) to enable Internet of Things (IoT) and M2M industrial applications. “There are a vast range of applications for this technology ranging from medical solutions to agricultural systems and is particularly suitable for utility metering.”

Myers says that LoRa WAN solves the problem of having to replace batteries in utility meters every five years or so due to the extremely low power requirements of the LoRa radio. This is especially important in water meters which are extremely expensive to locate and service once installed. The LoRa technology enables a meter to report its readings every day and still achieve an extended multiyear battery life.

By using LoRa radio technology in their systems, meter manufacturers can eliminate the need for street level gateways. Meters can talk directly to the FastNet network and the data can be sent to billing and energy control systems using a simple Web based API.

Myers adds that the network has been designed to be scalable to be able to handle millions of meters and compliments its existing GSM-based cellular offerings for the M2M market.

In 2014, FastNet announced its intention to build a network designed specifically for the IoT in South Africa. By partnering with global semiconductor company Semtech, FastNet has been able to use Semtech’s LoRa RF technology in the development of this network due to its long range and secure, bidirectional communication capabilities.

The LoRa technology enables public or multi-tenant networks to connect multiple applications into the same network infrastructure, which will enable new applications for IoT, M2M, smart city, sensor networks and industrial automation applications.